Gwyn Williams from the Welsh Evangelical Church in Cardiff based his opening sermon on the text I Thessalonians 1:5 Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.
A Christian in the small Welsh town of Ammanford was known as “Beynon bach” that is, “dear Beynon.” He had a powerful testimony, and when he got to his feet at the Thusday night Seiat his presence demanded a hearing. Even we children stopped fidgeting. He was the kind of person we preachers here today would like to be – a man to whom people give a hearing.
Why have you come to this Conference? To be helped in a particular situation. What is our need in 2008? The religious climate is changing, maybe it has already changed. Christianity is considered by many to be a form of extremism. Our own convictions are now dubbed ‘phobia.’ We are dismissed as ‘fundamentalists’ and linked with the ‘fundamentalists’ of other religions and considered dangerous. The God Delusion is the best seller in the religious section of secular bookshops. How are we coping with our anti-Christian situation? How is your faith coping? Is your faith being shaken. Are there doubts about this whole Christian faith? Do they lurk in our hearts and souls? Christian doubts are nothing new. William Williams of Pantycelyn acknowledged his doubts – his “dry, confusing, comfortless and dark doubts” as he referred to them. Are you getting to be an irritable Christian minister? Where is the love for the lost? Even Christian ministers have to battle with losing their evangelistic concern. How much hope do you have for the future of your church? Why have you come here? What are you looking for? Old friends? That is an encouragement. Puritan quotations? Good ministry, erudite materials, well prepared? Look again at I Thessalonians and what Paul wrote.
Quality ministry produces quality Christianity. Quality ministers produce quality Christians. What were those qualities in apostolic times? Then the gospel came, and not in word only. The ministry of Paul was certainly in word, but not only in word; verbal, but with a powerful divine dimension. Something was said and heard, as we can see in Acts 17 where his visit to Thessalonica is described. Paul reasoned with the Thessalonian Jews out of the Scriptures about Christ. So it was certainly a verbal presentation, and it must always be thus. But the verbal communication in itself is not sufficient to kindle faith and love. Something else is needed. This ministry has to be with power, the Holy Spirit and with much assurance. The bare word is not enough. There has to be the heavenly dimension of the Spirit’s activity. He quickens, illuminates, sanctifies, gives gifts and graces. There is much assurance, so that truth can only be the convicting truth of God.
Beynon Bach was converted in the 1904 revival in Wales. There were 10,000 meetings held during that year and the next, and only 250 of them were attended by the famous Evan Roberts. It was Joseph Jenkins who was the man who came from Cardiganshire to Bethany Presbyterian Church in Ammanford to preach, and he was instrumental in Beynon Bach’s conversion. Incidentally Dr. Lloyd-Jones visited Joseph Jenkins shortly before he died and the old man said to the Doctor, “Can you pull me back out of this river? I did not know that it was so wide . . . but I am going to Jesus Christ . . .” Then he added, plaintively, “I wish I felt it more here.” Mr. Jenkins came to Ammanford and he began by preaching first on the conversion of Zacchaeus, and there was a stirring in the congregation. There was a great week of meetings, and shortly afterwards Seth Joshua came with another great week, and the services went on until midnight. At this time Beynon Bach was converted. Fifty years later Gwyn Williams, the son of the pastor at Bethany, as a ten year old boy, became aware of him. When Beynon Bach stood on his feet and began to speak at the weekly Seiat (the Fellowship Meeting), then the little children would put away their crayons and listen. He would confess his sinful heart, and tears would run down his cheeks. How could such a godly man have sins, thought the children. He had known a ministry of power and the Holy Spirit and much assurance. Men like him had known something that the rest of us have heard about, the gospel coming with special power from heaven. We have had moments like that in previous conferences and we have wanted to go home and become better preachers.
How wonderful if next Sunday the congregation would sense a difference. A pastor whom God has visited in one of these meetings with power and the Holy Ghost and much assurance was standing before them in the pulpit. Have you come expecting great things from God?
JOEL BEEKE. First Conference Address.
Dr. Beeke began to read Banner of Truth titles when he was a teenager and by the Banner paperbacks he found relief for his soul. Perkins has a summary at the end of his book, The Art of Prophesying, Preach on Christ: Preach by Christ; Preach for the sake of Christ. We want to know our Lord better and preach him fervently. This past Saturday, 30 years to the day, he was ordained to the ministry. One low point was when 22 men came and met the session and told them what a bad preacher he was. The last stood right by him and even said, “‘Christ,’ ‘Christ.’ I am so sick of hearing only about ‘Christ.’” Those words were like arrows into his heart. Then they left and Joel told the elders, “I cannot but preach Christ and will do so until I die.”
In Dutch they say, “Is he a Christ preacher?” That is the highest compliment, to be a Christ preacher. My own father was in the camp of those who were not happy with Christ preaching as one of those who felt it encouraged presumption. But one time when he thought he was going to die he said to Joel, “Preach Christ, son, because you can never preach him enough.” That was a sacred moment in our lives. When you do so not only will people vindicate you at the end of the day but you can put your head on the pillow on the Sunday night and rest in peace. I am not saying that we get to be satisfied with our sermons, for on many occasions we are not. Maybe there are five times in a year when we don’t have to ask our wives “How was the sermon?” because we know that Christ was with us on those occasions.
To be a preacher is more important than living in the White House. We have the best vocation, and the best news in the world, Jesus Christ and him crucified. We need to immerse ourselves in him. That is how I feel myself, often returning to Samuel Rutherford and seeing how Christ-centred he was. Thomas Goodwin says that heaven would be hell to him without Christ. Think of our Lord as the very substance and marrow of all the Scriptures. One of my members said to me, “I am always waiting for you to get to Christ, and sometimes you take a little long.” So let us turn to I Corinthians chapter 2:
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. [NIV; Dr Beeke read from the AV].
The Corinthian letter shows us that the solution to every problem is Christ. In chapter one there is division in the congregation; members were enamoured with personalities. Paul rejects this spirit and focuses on the Lord Jesus. Then he goes on to say that he has com
e to preach the gospel, because it is the only truth in all the world that tells us what God has done for us and what has to be done in order for us to be saved. God saves in such a way that he gets all the glory. The preacher falls to the background and God is at the foreground of everything. Both the form and content of every sermon is being shaped by Christ.
Then in the second chapter he takes himself as a model of what they ought to be looking for. In those above five verses Paul presents us with some things every preacher ought to be. A minister must labour under the self-conscious task of being a witness to the Father’s testimony. He comes to declare the testimony of God (v.1). He came to say what God has said and wants him to say. Paul is confined to being an ambassador of Christ. He shed originality and cleverness and insights; his job description is to be a herald of God and bring the word of God only. That is our job description today. This is our authority and calling. Nothing matters but what God has said. We are faithful heralds of the Word of God. Our listeners heed us and search every part of us – everything about us enters into the picture so that they receive all we say. It is so important to have lives that walk the walk as well as talk the word. Scripture must master and control us before we bring it to our people. The best way of living, and the most comfortable way of dying is found in the Scripture. We are to penetrate the mind of God in Holy Scripture with all our biblical tools and as accurately as possible. Then, engaging in this hard labour, we open up the word of God to the people so that even children can follow and aged saints can benefit from. In and out of seasons we are to do this.
2. OUR TESTIMONY
When I get discouraged I read some of our forefathers’ prayers. All their fine prayers are just the Word of God strung together. Bring God his word in prayer and bring to the people in preaching the same word. We declare the testimony of God. The essence of the testimony is here, Jesus Christ and him crucified. The heart of the gospel is him, the one whom the Father loves. That must be our life. Whatever you do in your life you save your best energy to preaching Christ. That is what Paul was determined to do. He rejected everything else and put Christ first, as of paramount importance.
3. OUR THEME.
The second verse is encouraging us to open up the theme of the cross of Christ and find the Saviour in every text of the Bible. That is what will bear fruit in our ministries. To disappear over the brow of the hill like the lamplighter leaving a line of lights behind us – as Spurgeon once observed him – that is to be our goal – leave lights shining behind us. In the smallest things Paul leads people to Christ – whatever the problems might be. Wives and husbands, children, servants and masters, giving, tensions in relationships – all those moral exhortations are centred upon Christ. We are to forgive like him, give like him, be humble like him, and pursue holiness because we are his. Let us renunciate our lives knowing only Jesus Christ and him crucified. How can we ever be like this?
4. OUR TRUST
In verses three and four he tells us that his words were in demonstration of the Spirit and power. We need the Spirit of Christ to preach the Christ. If you ever think you know what it is to preach then you haven’t begun. The ministry is not an occupation that you can know without being broken and feeling your weakness. Paul came in fear and trembling but he came also in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. In all his weakness he was strong. A minister can mount the pulpit steps and stand in front of the congregation and in his heart he is crying, “Spirit . . . power . . . Spirit . . . power . . .’ not even completing sentences. We go to our pulpits with no expectation in ourselves, feeling inadequate but yet having an adequacy in Christ, converting and drawing sinners to the Lord in our weakness.
Paul relies on the Spirit but he never attempts to be the Spirit. These verses are the model of our ministries; our attention must be heaven-ward to God’s glory and this by God’s power. He that glorieth let him glory in the Lord. Is this the focus of your ministry, God’s glory in Jesus Christ? Is this your abiding passion? Would they say of you, He is a Christ preacher? Every subject he takes up he will get to Christ. Those who have seen Christ will see the Father. Those who preach Christ will glorify the Father.
THE BANNER OF TRUTH MINISTERS’ CONFERENCE, LEICESTER, 2008, DAY TWO
SHEPHERDING ALL OUR PEOPLE.
All of us are in a far country on this subject of the work of the pastor and our need is more to be going to God for mercy, than to resolve we will become better pastors. Go to the God who welcomes us and covers our worst faults.
WHAT ARE THE BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS?
A] What it means to shepherd. There are two key texts addressing elders, Acts 20:28 and I Peter 5-1&2. From them we learn that it means to look after the people and make sure they are fed spiritually and be kept on the right track, to bandage the bleeding, heal the ill and seek the wandering, to protect them from all the wolves, most of whom they cannot recognize. Our goal is to look after every one of them.
B] Who those are who need to be shepherded. In Acts 20:28 Paul says it is the flock of God which is among you, as you are among them. Every elder as he shepherds men, is so addressed because the chief shepherd has committed us to one another.
C] Why they have to be shepherded. Because the Son of God purchased them with his own blood. He does not intend to lose any one of them. We know that the Scriptures teach every one of the elect will be saved; they are kept by the power of God through faith. If I persevere I will be saved. What is the principal means by which men and women are kept persevering? The life and ministry of the local church, especially the ministry of its pastors, and in a real sense the salvation of the men and women in front of us depends on your life and work.
D] How they are to be shepherd. In Acts 20 and from the 28th verse onwards we read that Paul exhorts the elders first to give heed to themselves. Watch and remember that Paul warned and exhorted every one night and day with tears. He cared and spoken to the members all round the clock. This is hard and sacrificial work, emotionally draining work. Paul was an example to them and he reminded them of Jesus saying it was more blessed to give than to receive.
In I Peter 5 is the same theme Peter talking of serving as an overseer and willingly doing it, not for dishonest gain, but eagerly driven by desire to do this work, doing it with a consciousness of the reward. Every day our eye is there on meeting with the church’s Head, and then we are assured that it will have been worth it. For Christ’s sake we work hard and long, tenderly looking after every Christian in the church.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN IN PRACTICE?
A] You must know who is a sheep and who isn’t. We must go on people’s profession of faith. The criteria are laid down in the word of God telling us what are the credible marks of such a profession. For example, do we have faith in the Lord? Let us begin there. I ask people if they pray and when they say they do, I question them, “Why should God listen to you?” “It is all because of Jesus Christ, and nothing in me,” they reply, and that response is a credible profession. All their hopes are grounded in Jesus Christ. That is what faith in the Saviour looks like. “Do you pray?” is a much better question than requesting their testimony. To ask that question you have to get close to people.
Again there is a certain attitude to sin. What do you think of sin? Does it
distress you? Do you end each day thinking of what a failure you are, a contradiction, with a lack of coherence in your life and that distresses you, but the people who have tuned it all and have it all in place distress me more.
Again we want to see church members with a love for the brethren. That means we have to be in contact with them. I talk to my wife; I do not send her Emails. You must know who these people are.
B] Pastors must know each individual sheep. You must know their names, their addresses, the house where they live. Do you know their family circumstances? Could you go through a typical day in their life? What is their background or culture? What is their temperament, character, where are their strengths and weaknesses, and what are their fears, joys? Where are they in grace? What is their doctrinal grasp and level of obedience? You have to get close and you cannot do that without spending time with them.
C] You must take definite steps to ensure that each sheep is being looked after.
i) Preaching is one of these means, that it is accessible to all the sheep Christ has given you as under-shepherd. Can they all understand it, every one of them? Discriminatory applicatory preaching means that the word is opened up and it is applied to everyone in particular. “This word is for me!” they think. It does not mean that every application is a ‘challenge.” So the major part of the pastoral work is done for the pulpit.
ii) The Church. We teach them what fellowship is. That we share one another’s lives. There is a NT concept of community. Scripture is telling us to encourage one another and wash one another’s feet, to provoke one another to love and good works. There is the NT concept of community. So that they all become part and parcel of one another. Not all the work can be done by pastors. Let us keep one another abreast of one another’s lives.
iii) Eldership meetings. Do they start with the minutes? Don’t do that. Start with devotion and prayer and then a question. Is anyone causing us concern? Talk about the members and adherents and members of the congregation. Don’t ask how the young people are doing. Some are converted and some are not, some are from non-Christians families and some now. What is a young person? Talk of individuals. Could you organise regular visiting among your members? Pray for these people together, and if there are things getting in the way of the flock’s growth then deal with them.
iv) Yourself. Buy a notebook and divide it into 5 sections, and the first day you pray for a fifth of the members, adherents, organizations and for personal matters. Each day you do a fifth of this. Parson is the old English word means ‘persona’ and so be the person who calls in at the Young People’s meeting and the Women’s Meeting and other event. Be there among them as the Person. What of bereavement? Go straight to the family. If there are problems then go straight to their front door. Be hospitable; they see it in you and so catch it. You might give people a temporary place in the family. That is hospitality. Keep an open home. Members young and old should be able to go to the pastor’s house without any special reason, and as pastor you should keep a plentiful supply of toast and soup in the kitchen. After the church’s services, be around. We’re not good in putting in the sickle, to those who are convicted and troubled. Why not invite people to a ‘Not Yet’ meeting – “I am not yet a Christian.” Gather others into a theologically literate meeting. Let your pastoral visits possibly suggest a pastoral series. Do not forget all the thoughtful touches that show you love and care. You show this most of all by giving your complete attention to what is said to you. There are all sorts of things we say and do to show that we care for our people. You invest in a hand-written note. Spurgeon could write hundreds of these in a week. Our job is to love and to teach, in that order.
CHRIST FORSAKEN. THE ABANDONMENT OF JESUS
Matthew 27:46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" – which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Rabbi Duncan said of these words, “Do you know what it is? It is damnation taken lovingly.”
The Profundity of it.
It is noon and he has hung there for three hours and spoken three times, for his enemies, to a thief, and arranging for his mother’s care. Suddenly at noon something strange happens. It grows eerily dark and quiet. At Golgotha as well as all over the land it is midnight at midday and the darkness lasts three long hours. It symbolizes judgment and sin. The sun withholds its light and the Son of Man is curtained into the Holy of Holies, friends and enemies withdrawn, he treads the winepress alone. At his birth there was a throng of angels and the night air was lit up, but at his death it was darkness at noon, God looking upon his suffering servant. It was a tremendously solemn time, of felt darkness. So Jesus understands when we enter trials. He has been there and can get us through it.
Christ was silent for many hours but when he experienced the full brunt of his Father’s wrath he cried, “Why?” What does the cry of dereliction mean? God forsaken by God. There are many things they do not mean:
i] It cannot mean that God diminished his deity
ii] It does not mean that Jesus divided his divine from his human natures
iii] The Trinity was not split up; the 3 do not become the 2.
iv] The cry did not detach him from the Holy Spirit. He lacked his comfort but not the holiness of the Spirit.
v] It did not disavow his mission to take away our sin.
We must bow down and worship the one crying ‘Why?’ We have reason to instinctively fall down before the cross. But the cry does mean the following
i] He faced the reality of unanswered prayer, as Jesus quotes Psalm 22. Was he asking for some smile or benediction from his Father? The heavens were as brass before him. What a common experience that is in the ministry. The preacher is often lonely. He knows what it means to agonise in his own study feeling abandoned by man and by God.
ii] He was expressing the agony of unbearable stress, a ‘roaring’ as he agonized. This is the cry of hell and of forsakenness. He is not ‘speaking’ but roaring like a lion. It is heart-piercing and at that moment of dereliction the full experience of his Father’s wrath is focused on him. Yet he is an object of love as God forsakes him for justice’ sake.
iii] The agony of unmitigated sin, all the sin of the chosen, laid upon Jesus. An infinite satisfaction made to an infinite God for infinite sin and Christ bore the whole wrath of God. Such a compression of the weight of guilt upon him for these few hours. His sense of sinnership came to the foreground and overwhelmed him. So he cries, “My God . . .” not “My Father . . .” God made him sin who knew no sin. He became the vile one and this is what God thinks of our iniquity. We have to learn to abandon our feelings when they say that God has abandoned us. We must cling to him and say, “My Lord and my God.” The question of Jesus is one of loving submission. He knew the answer to that question, but he wants to hear again his Father’s reassuring voice. “Help me to penetrate through, and give me the promises again, and see my way through.”
v] Jesus is expressing the agony of abandoned loneliness – when he needed God the most. God was present only in displeasure. There is opposition and not nearness but rather distance. Yet Jesus does not succumb to self-pity but cries out to God. Every detail of this abandonment speaks comf
ort to you and me. Every time we are tempted to sin we think of what sin cost our Saviour.
2. Forsaken for us.
We shudder at abandoned babies, rejected by their mothers. Jesus was abandoned by the Father. We might feel forsaken, but Jesus was really forsaken, pushed away by the Father.
What is the reason why our Saviour experienced this? It pleased the Lord to bruise him. God is in control, and that is our only comfort. Nothing takes God by surprise. It pleased the Lord to bruise him. But how? Capriciousness? Never. Malice? Never. To teach him some lessons? No, he was perfect. Then it must have been entirely the consequence of the substitution. An affliction borne for us who are sinners. For us. He bore our sin; for many he suffered there. Jesus connected with sinners and acting on their behalf, was suffering for them. It is penal substitution. The God who condones nothing is the God who bears our sin. He provides the substitute who condemns the sin. God will provide the Lamb and he finds it in his own bosom. There lies something of the great mystery of why God has forsaken us. He comes in our place not just stands with us. He comes and takes all the judgment himself. So we are immune to the anathema, because he bore it for us in the outer darkness. He secured immunity for us. He saves to the uttermost and because Christ died on the tree Golgotha achieves all he accomplishes. He brings us to God.
3. It was all motivated by his love.
i] Christ being forsaken shows his impressive love. The cry of dereliction is one of unspeakable love. We need to grasp this and bring it from the pulpit again and again and live it out. We understood what he has done for us as we grasp the love of the cross. Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus. We will worship Christ and we will resolve any bitterness anyone has done against another. How dare we trivialize at the foot of the cross. He took the real thing and we have to walk in his shadows.
ii] What tremendous love the Father had. He gave his Son and turned away from him, making him sin that we might be set free. God gave his only Son to his enemies. What lavish love he had for his Son, and so we have broken into a love that carries us away to its own domain of bottomless love. How foolish of God to love such people as we are. But the folly of God is wiser than men. Had others treated us as we treated God we would offer them nothing, but God cast the pearl of great prize before such sinners.
ii] All through the amazing love of the Holy Spirit the veil of his human flesh, the temple’s holy of holies, and the centurion’s heart were all veiled by the Trinity. What love of the Spirit to continually take the things of Jesus Christ and apply them to the hearts of his people. Let us look into the beautiful face of Jehovah in heaven and say, “My Father. I know thou will never forsake me because thou didst forsake thy Son for me.”[There was another session on the second day, when Ian Hamilton spoke on the work of the pastor. It was much appreciated, but to my loss it was not possible for me to be there.]
THE BANNER OF TRUTH MINISTERS’ CONFERENCE LEICESTER, 2008
Luke 22:31 The Temptations of Peter.
The threefold office of the Lord Jesus Christ is to be applied to our hearts by the Spirit. Our Lord is the only one who can meet our needs, and he does so as prophet, priest and king. As we preach him we see prophetic admonition, priestly intercession and kingly commission.
I] Prophetic Admonistion.
The context is an argument amonst the disciples as to who is the greatest. It took place just after the Lord’s Supper. Peter is taken up with his own leadership. Jesus realises the danger Peter is in and warns him of the sifting process that lies ahead. Peter saw no danger before him and that in itself was dangerous. Peter was ready for prison and death but not for Satan’s devices. Jesus gives him a triple warning. When you say something twice to a child he knows he must sober up and listen. “Martha, Martha!” “Jerusalem, Jerusalem!” Wake up Simon; see where you are heading. What a solemn prophetic admonition. We need such warning because we are the primary target of Satan. He’d got Judas and now he was going after Simon. Satan is using all his power and moving every stone for our fall. Think of how Satan would rejoice if he could destroy you or me. He wants you – you had better believe it. Ministers are his prime target. He knows how to attack us at our weakest points. Sometimes we stumble so easily. How embarrassing it is! Satan catches us on his hook so easily with a little worm, and we are ambassadors of Jesus Christ. All such temptations are billboards on the road to damnation. Satan wants you and he will overturn every stone to get you, and his favourite way is to get you from within, just like the Trojan Horse filled with Greek soldiers took Troy. That is how Satan works with us.
Simon Peter was so complacent. Take heed lest you fall! Satan wants to sift us like wheat. When we should be showing the brightness of our faith we will rather be stumbling and falling when we don’t fly to Jesus. There was a farmer who warned people stealing water melons “One water melon is poisoned.” That solved the problem for a while until he saw another sign had been put up. “Two water melons have been poisoned.” He had to get rid of his whole crop.
2] Priestly Intercession.
However, Jesus has a better claim on us than Satan, and he says to Peter, “But I have prayed for you.” He is able to keep us. “I myself have prayed for you,” he is saying. He wants us much more than Satan wants us – thank God for that. His love is superior and his grace guards us. Christ was going into the biggest sin any enemy of Satan has encountered and it is to him we go for redemption and release. “Father, keep them,” he prays.
What a theme, the intercession of Christ! How little is it expounded or understood. Jesus is there remembering us. I pray for thee that thy faith fail not. He is not praying that we wont go into the sin, or that Peter will walk tall and strong. He prays that Peter’s faith will not be eclipsed but will persevere to the end. While darkness was everywhere Jesus prayed that Peter’s faith would stand. Our self-righteousness needs to fail. So he allows Satan to shake us up so that our faith will not fail. Jesus so overrules Satan that sometimes he makes Satan a good doctor for us, giving us good medicine. The waters of affliction become good therapy for us, through the intercession of Christ. We go together through everything ahead of us, leaning on him communing with him. We cannot go on for long without flying to his blood. The moment Peter falls Jesus comes by and gives him one look; Peter is broken.
3] Kingly Commission.
“When restored strengthen thy brethren,” said the Lord to Peter. He comes with authority to Jesus and Peter repents. Jesus’ strength is made perfect in his weakness. How strong Peter is in his letters. He speaks of his faith and he gives such wise warnings to his readers. God uses him to strengthen his brethren. The way to be a strengthener is to be a prophet, priest and king, restored by Christ. We are to be interceders in the flock of Christ. His kind of intercession teaches us how to feed the flock itself. He meets every one of our needs as believers, but as ministers too – or whatever our office might be.
Are we exercised in these three areas? Do we confess his name in every pastoral visitation? Do we leave something of the savour of Christ behind? We become too casual and do not get to Christ in our visitation. We have to be living sacrifices for the Lord’s glory. Do they see you fighting against sin? A poor listener means that in pastor
al visitations the conversation is about the shepherd and not of the sheep. It ought to be almost all about the sheep. However low we fall then the arms of Jesus are lower still.
If your congregation are talking together about your preaching would they be able to say that he is a ‘Christ preacher’? Do you bring Christ into every sermon? Do you love to preach him? Can he be seen in the congregation Sunday by Sunday and so you are developing a church of Christ lovers?
“Raising up Leadership in the Local Church.”
After Moses came Joshua, and after Elijah came Elisha, and after our Lord, the apostles, and after Paul Timothy was in place. To Timothy Paul spoke in 2 Timothy 2:1&2 You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.
1 Some things to notice:
A. Men of God live and die. We must make sure that the gospel never perishes from the earth. So Paul exhorts Timothy to train the next generation. The gospel will be preserved by preachers who live and die, by publishers and printers and writers of books, and by those who record, make copies and distribute CD’s and MP3’s.
We are to maintain a three generation mindset – as in our text. Who went before me? Have I kept their faith?
B. Our Task is clear. We know what to pass on. The gospel in biblical, theological and doctrinal truth. We make mistakes, develop skills, and we homiletically improve so that we preach better. But that is not what we pass on. Experience and expertise are not what we pass on. The old hymns are not what we pass on. We have a history and heritage, but that is nothing without the gospel and that is what we pass on.
We know to whom we have to pass it on. To ‘men’ thatis, to the leadership which is masculine in the church, believing, converted, reliable, honest, principled, upright men. They will be able to teach others also.
How we are to pass it on? By ‘committing’ it to them. Timothy must do it. Paul does not dole it out hoping someone or other will pick it up. He commits the treasure to someone else. So we teach someone so that they don’t just learn it and it stays with them but that they in turn can teach others.
C. How this can work out in practice.
Redefine our role as ministers. In prayer, preparation, preaching and pastoral work. Any more? What of the evangel? So you add proclamation. And then what of writing? So you add publication. Then you add another ‘P’, passing on to others. So, my fellow officers, do we see this as part of our role?
We must identify the right men. We do this with prayer, and also practically, getting to know the men of your church well. Watch their lives, listen to their conversation, Look out for godly men with teaching gifts. Get into their company. Constantly ask these questions about a man – does he give evidences of a godly life, self-discipline, integrity, purity, uprightness, punctuality? Who are his friends? Get to know those men well. There are countless churches where no one is looking out for young men. So get to know the teenage lads, and then the boys who will become teenagers. Be at the children’s meetings, the Young People’s meetings, to get to know them. The greatest joys in the ministry are found in this work. We have to be looking out for godly men all the time. Encourage them to speak in the mission hall nearby, or in the evening meeting.
Then we teach them to teach others. Have a pulpit style which teaches some to teach others. Read together. Know your man and so choose a book that will help him. Take initiatives. Why not invite any man to come to preaching seminars. The Lord meets some men in preaching seminars. Announce leadership training for those in the 18-30 years of age bracket. The cut-off point is 30 or older ones will dominate the 18 year olds. There are countless things we can do.
Dr. JOHN AARON
“The Founders of Welsh Calvinistic Methodism.”
Can A Nation be Born at Once?
The prophet Isaiah says, yes a nation can be born at once. There are lessons from these Calvinistic Methodists to explain their remarkable success. They had distinguishing characteristics. Their beginnings were similar to the English revival but as it progressed there were differences. The early 18th century was an especially dark period in Wales where about half a million people lived. Various spiritual awakenings in the previous centuries during the Reformation and the Puritan period had not touched Wales largely because of the language barrier. There were three Marian martyrs in Wales; all had English names. There were a few Puritans in Wales, but not many and they were predominantly middle class. A few thousand people attended the nonconformist churches but toleration, theological quarrels and a dry spirit weakened them further so the Principality was a deeply superstitious people. Then in 1735 in the providence Daniel Rowland and Hywel Harries were converted independently of one another. So too was Whitefield and three years later William Williams of Pantycelyn, and the two Wesleys and others.
The ministry of these men was an itinerant one and not for 70 years were congregations settled. Open air preachings, and a gathering of converts in the local ‘societies’ from members of the Established Church were the means by which the lambs were nurtured. In South Wales there was severe persecution of the preachers and it even spread to north Wales. The overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit characterized these decades. Hywel Harries preached and as he toured Wales thousands came to hear him. From 1760 onwards for 80 years there was hardly a year which did not witness a revival somewhere in Wales. In the years 1778 through 1782 all the land was affected. At other times particular counties were affected. In 1826 there was an awakening in the town of Caerphilly and by such kindness from God the whole nation was affected. In 1851 for the only time in its history the National Census asked the population what church they went to on Sundays. There are 2,088 congregations of dissenters in Wales compared to 60 a century earlier in 1730. All the Baptists and Congregationalists were evangelicals. Half a million of the million population (to which the population had grown in a century – it is today almost three million) were hearing gospel truth on Sundays. The nation had been transformed; a new nation had come into being. The congregations and denominations were the flowing streams born during a sustained period of revival and filling the land. Those to which the revivals came were characterized in the following ways:
1 A deep experience of the reality of the being of God leading to a sense of sin.
2 They had a deep experience of what was offered to them in the gospel, that sins could be forgiven through Christ and so fellowship with God could be experienced. There was the joy of the gospel. The history of Thomas Charles’ conversion demonstrates this. Again Hywel Harris said in his Journal in scribbled notes in Welsh and English describing his early experience: “I had light that I never had before . . . so that I despised myself because of my sin.” These experiences were the same for every believer and yet in intensity they far surpassed what we have known. Their doctrines would not be different from ours in any way; we would agree with their preaching, but the difference lay in the depth of experience of their beliefs, and the subsequent behaviour.
What was the pattern of life that emerged?
Constant preaching to satisfy the desire of many people for the Word; Ebenezer Morris attended Association Meetings, the seiadau, preaching three times on Sundays. He preached in funerals and to eve
ry boat that came to shore. He preached six thousand times, 300 times a year, traveling both on foot and horseback.
Hywel Harris was the greatest itinerant of them all. Preaching sometimes seven times in a day it was unbelievably tiring, praying and struggling against his sins. He often found his time of departure to be near. He would return to Trefecca for a few days, write some letters and then go off again and this pattern he maintained for 15 years in the first period of his itinerary.
Their worship was centred at the Association Meetings, with many young people meeting them, occasionally singing and praying as they journeyed there. Finally in centres such as Bala they met with a multitude of the same mind. There was sobriety and decorum in the streets and occasionally remarkable times.
Dafydd Cadwalyder became a great man of prayer in public prayers and his private prayers were more remarkable still, with the whole nights spent on his knees. One evening as he went to feed the cattle, he lost all sense of time, the dawn was about to break when he ceased praying. He had spent the whole night in prayer. What must have been the prayer life of this man? He was one of those men who were strong and did exploits because they knew their God.
They had a deep experience of the Holy Spirit and his use of them as preachers. Hywel Harris preaching in Groes Wen described when the Lord came down upon them there. Words are nothing without God’s presence. There was this recurring pattern over a hundred years of dependence on the Spirit. Harris often said, “I had a deep longing in my heart for the Spirit. O that I might have thy Spirit. What am I without him? What can the church do without him?” Thomas Charles later said the same thing; “Without the Spirit I might as well be silent. . .”
In conclusion I want to say three things:
They were Trinitarian. There were these three characteristics, the reality of the God, the reality of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the reality of their experience of the Spirit. They dealt with Father, Son and Holy Spirit each day. They were deeply Trinitarian. They worshipped the members of the Godhead, and they had no fear at the end of their lives when death came to them.
To them their preaching was their life’s calling. Their preaching was to be in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. They were convicted of lifelessness and longed for life. The immediate help of the Spirit was their portion as they went to where crowds gathered and their words fell on their hearers. 2000 would stand in the rain to hear Harris. He had a message to deliver from God to men. At times he ventured his life on the Holy Spirit as a mob faced him. Many times Harris was trampled under foot, and so this sense of the Spirit was particularly necessary to sustain him in his calling. “You need two faiths, faith for your soul and faith for the work,” Harris said to his fellow exhorters. He was the pioneer of the great Welsh awakening and as these Welsh peasants grew in the knowledge of God his sermons changed. Over 120 years their sermons were increasingly expository as these men sought to present to their congregation exposition in a word that came in the power of the Spirit. John Elias was described as sifting a congregation, from his deep meditations, prayers and strong cries and tears. He wrestled for a message from God longing for the verse to open to him. Elias used the story of a man who entered a room on a hot day and was perplexed to see a fire, but then he checked it again and it was a painting of a fire. That story of the vivid painting of of flames Elias used to describe ineffectual preaching.
These men had a constant sense of the need for revival. They were familiar with it and wanted it. John Aaron ended with a quotation from Dr Lloyd-Jones preaching at the 1977 Bala Conference.
THE BANNER OF TRUTH MINISTERS’ CONFERENCE LEICESTER, 2008
‘The Work of the Pastor.’
The preacher is more than the sum of his sermons. All he says is tinctured by what he is. The sermon is the overflow of his life. The sermons cannot rise above the man. E. M. Bounds said such words. Everything depends on the spiritual character of the preacher. God can use anyone to spread his truth, but what you are fits you as nothing else can fit you. What you are and what I am fits us for ministerial usefulness. Your character will either give weight to what you say or undo what you say. The crowds were astonished at the Lord’s authority. What our Lord was gave weight to what he said. The Christian ministry is much like an iceberg. The little that people see must reflect a much greater depth. What we are will undo or add luster to the sermons we preach. We are not to neglect the discipline of the inner heart.
Ministers are to be like Christ. As the prophet Isaiah recorded, "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged.” (Is. 42:1-4).
In these verses God speaks of his servant, Christ the suffering one, and how he entered on his ministry. He outlines for us his character that will punctuate and permeate everything as he seeks to become the obedient one of the Father. What the Spirit first produces in Christ he reproduces in the people of Christ. Our Lord is the model for ministerial character. There is no other ministry than that of servant ministry because the great minister of God was the great servant of God.
The context of these words is interesting. There are triad of the identical word ‘Behold’ found in the previous verses, and the third occurrence is at the beginning of our text. Behold the vanity of idols, he has said, but now, Behold my servant. God’s remedy for a world gone wrong is God’s servant addressing for the darkness and emptiness of this world. This one will serve him as Adam failed to serve him. He is the one who will perfectly model true servanthood. It will be placaded before us in him. When Paul writes to the Philippians he tells them that the mind that must be in them was first found in Christ. The mind was defined in humble self-denying suffering. We are above all servants. First we are servants of God, given wholly to him, and answerable to him, but to his grace, come what may. But our servanthood is double-edged. We are servants also of the people of God. “And ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” In Marke 10 Jesus rebuked his disciples telling them that the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and give his life . In John 13 he takes off his outer garments and washes the feet of men who will shortly desert him and leave him all alone. He is the great proto-typical servant.
Paul illustrates that in Philippians 2 telling us something of Timothy. He will elsewhere tell him to preach the word, but in Philippians 2 he says he has no one like him, and Paul commends the servant character of this man to whom he later gave the charge to preach. If your hearers and mine do not feel that they matter to us above life itself then our preaching will have no effect on them. Our ministry is carried on in a tender love for them, like a parent for a child. Neither wealth nor liberty nor life matters to us as much as their salvation. When you preach poorly and you stumble or stammer do your people know then that this man would lay down his life for us? “Behold my servant!”
What is it that the Lord wants us to behold about him?
1 Behold his complete dependence on God. “Whom I uphold . . . I
will put my Spirit on him.” There is a moment by moment upholding by the Lord, and he will need that. It was by the Holy Spirit that he offered himself unblemished to God. There is a Trinitarian cast to all that the Saviour is and does. He will need the upholding of the Spirit. His servanthood will never be effortless; he will always be dependent on the Spirit given to him and on the Spirit succouring him. Christ will not cruise to his goal. When Paul tells the Philippians to have the mind that was in Christ he was saying that he lived in humble dependence on the Father.
How will that manifest itself in our own lives? Just as it manifest in Jesus’ life. In constant prayerfulness. Christianity on its knees is Calvinism. Our whole work must be carried on in a deep sense of our insufficiency. We must go in our weakness to him who sends us to the work. If we prevail not with God to give us faith and dependence then we will not prevail with them to believe.
2. Behold his unyielding faithfulness to God. “He will bring justice to the nations . . . He will not falter or be discouraged.” Nothing will deter his servant from completing his mission until he accomplishes it, even the sin-bearing wrath of the cross. Even in the Garden as the weight and enormity of the cross crushed him he did not falter. There was unyielding faithfulness woven into his character. The Lord’s Servant is faithful, and we have been called to a great work that made an apostle cry, “who is sufficient for this work?” We turn aside and give ourselves to the work entrusted to us. Williams Chalmers Burns was an astonishing model of faithfulness. When he was contemplating going to China he wrote to Morrison about the Chinese language and got a daunting reply of the difficulty of learning the Chinese language. Burns said, “Bring it on.” God had called him to the work.
Maybe you are returning to situations you want to turn from. This great Servant once said, “Let this cup be taken from me, nevertheless . . .” Luther once said, “Those who are in the office of teacher should expect to be killed by the world, trampled underfoot and despised by their own.’ When Eric Alexander was waiting in a line to meet the Doctor he overheard him tell all those before him the same thing, “Go on!” We could say nothing better.
3. The personal humility of the servant. He did not raise his voice in the street. He would not shout others down and promote himself. There is an unself-advertising dynamic in the servant. You cannot be clever in the pulpit and persuade men that Christ is mighty to save. It is never enough to speak the truth. The way you speak it is as important as the truth you speak. He was clothed in humility, and that mind must be in us. He humbled himself and he laid aside the insignia of his glory, becoming obedient to death. There is nothing more dishonouring in the service of the Lord than self-advertising ministers.
4. He wants us to behold his unimaginable grace. Here is the animating pulse-beat of the servant’s ministry. He was gentle with the weak, kind and forbearing. Fierce to the enemies of God but kind to the flock of God, carrying them in his arms. He is gentle with the weak, fragile and useless. We are never fit to say a word to sinners except when we are full of brokenness and our hearts are full of pity. We get annoyed with some in our congregation because the wonders of grace have not affected our hearts. Many of the sheep are just poor needy souls who need a kind shepherd to come alongside them and bear with them and help them see that the heart of the eternal is most wondrously kind to those who fall. One thing above all that our churches should be noted for is the practice of grace. It is easier to preach it than practice it. This man welcomes sinners. He runs after them. “I leave the 99 and go searching for the one that was lost.” That mind is to be in us. Who would ever have conceived that the everlasting blessed God would come into our world wrapped in meekness and weakness, stooping down to our sin and rebellion, washing feet and ultimately dying abandoned on the cross, for love of a world stuck in the mire of its rebellion against him?
Union with this Servant initiates us into sharing with his servanthood. Notice here how the Lord expresses his personal delight with his servant. What is it that delights Jehovah win his servant? That he would become obedient unto death. That is the theme of the voice at the baptism. Is the Lord well pleased with us? As we reflect, however poorly on the character of his Servant Son he will be pleased with us. That is why as we prepare to preach we cry, “Make us more like Jesus.” All I ask, throughout life’s journey, to be like him.
The closing sermon was on I John chapter one
That is the message we always need to hear, every day and everywhere.
Whose Message is it?
John is bursting to tell us the message, starting with that strange word ‘it’, something which was from the beginning. It cannot be an angel, man, mountain or animal. It is the Word who is from the beginning, God expressed in God. All other life proceeds from him and there is no other life anywhere at all. He is eternal life and our ears have heard the Sermon on the Mount and the Parables and the words from the Cross from him alone. We have heard his parting words from the mount of ascension. We have seen the transfigured Christ, Gethsemane, the cross and the resurrection. We have looked up seeing something deeper, and we have handled him – didn’t they once carry him into a boat when he was tired. We declare this that you may enjoy fellowship with us. Nothing could make you more joyful than having fellowship with us. This is the message we have heard from him.
What does it say?
That God is light. Later he will tell us that God is love. But you will not appreciate that unless you first know that he is light. How can you say that you are in fellowship with him and walk in darkness? But if the light is shining into your life and you are open before him than we have fellowship with one another. It is not that we do not have sin. That is a dangerous claim because the Christian religion is a religion of sinners. It heaps dishonour on Christ; we are making him a liar. Confess your sins and be cleansed from all unrighteousness.
In Chapter 2 and the opening verses know of this Advocate with THE Father. Before him is the righteous Christ who acknowledges the guilt of all his clients. He who is righteous is our propitiation. What a marvelous exchange; his righteousness is put to our account, and our sin and guilt to him. We are from all over the world and we have the same propitiation, and that is Christ. There is no other in the whole world.
What Points in this Message should we particularly take to Heart?
A] One thing spoils communion with God. John is writing to Christians about sin and blood and cleansing. Why? He remembers as we remember, that Jesus said that he who is washed is completely clean. There are two sorts of people in the world, the dirty and the clean. You are completely clean but you still need to wash your feet. It is a theme in the gospels and in the epistles. Are you conscious you are unblest by God? You cannot blame the family, church, environment. It is sin that spoils communion with God. The NT says it is our only problem. The plague of plagues. Search it out, for it is the one thing that spoils communion with God.
B] One thing can deal with sin, only one. If we solved the problem of the church and the family and the environment and the culture was changed then still you would carry this sinning heart with you. It is Jesus who improves things. He lived and died and his blood cleanses us from all sin.
There is one thing only f
or us to do constantly, and it is not to protest our innocence, but to call sin ‘Sin.’ Confess it to the Lord. Be honest with God and face up to him. Take off the mask and tell him everything. The first thought that comes into your mind is how it affects you. It is sin. When you preach well then you are tempted to feel good about yourself. When things go wrong do you pity yourself and grumble? Do you boss the people when they don’t behave as they should? Resentment is murder. Touchiness is self-idolatry. Impatience is not to be like God. Being irritated by others is self-worship. Fear can be sinful. He tells us not to be afraid. The Bible does not say that exaggeration and deceit are errors of judgment. I am called before God and man to say that nothing good dwells in me. “My sin is ever before me.” That is the way to renewed fellowship with the Lord by humbling ourselves. Down is up and abasement is exaltation. I am preaching this message that you may know peace and joy renewed in the Lord. I must go to God as a sinner. The message ended with Stuart quoting Horatius Bonar’s hymn;
No, not despairingly come I to Thee;
No, not distrustingly bend I the knee:
Sin hath gone over me, yet is this still my plea,
Jesus hath died.
Ah! mine iniquity crimson hath been,
Infinite, infinite—sin upon sin:
Sin of not loving Thee, sin of not trusting Thee—
Lord, I confess to Thee sadly my sin;
All I am tell with Thee, all I have been:
Purge Thou my sin away, wash Thou my soul this day;
Lord, make me clean.
Faithful and just art Thou, forgiving all;
Loving and kind art Thou when poor ones call:
Lord, let the cleansing blood, blood of the Lamb of God,
Pass o’er my soul.
Then all is peace and light this soul within;
Thus shall I walk with Thee, the loved Unseen;
Leaning on Thee, my God, guided along the road,